In-depth: For clean beauty brands, getting PFAS out of makeup might be easier said than done

Read the full story at Environmental Health News.

After a bombshell study came out last summer showing that a number of cosmetics contained PFAS, a class of compounds linked to cancer and reproductive problems, small-scale Oregon beauty company Axiology sent a suite of its products for testing.

The results showed no indicators for PFAS.

But last fall, testing from the consumer wellness blog Mamavation found that one of Axiology’s lip balms and dozens of makeup products from other brands contained organic fluorine, an indicator for PFAS.

“We were absolutely stunned,” Lauren Evashenk, sustainability consultant for Axiology, told EHN. “The results were not slightly different [from Axiology’s testing] — they’re astronomically different.”

On first blush, the Mamavation testing appeared to indicate widespread contamination — and in a few cases, the intentional addition — of the harmful compounds in beauty products marketed as clean or green, which are ill-defined terms in this space but indicate brands that market themselves as selling toxic-free products. A few brands whose makeup initially had the PFAS, which stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, indicator worked to reformulate their products or remove the contamination from packaging and supply chains.

But clean beauty brands and some experts say that inconsistencies in testing and a lack of transparency from ingredient suppliers and manufacturers creates challenges for companies who are trying to keep PFAS out of their makeup.

“It’s very easy for PFAS to get into the supply chain accidentally in many different places,” Lydia Jahl, science and policy associate at the Green Science Policy Institute, told EHN. “Even the most well-intentioned brands could experience PFAS problems.”

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